VACAVILLE — It was love at first sight for many on Wednesday.
They touched. They circled. They looked underneath, on top and marveled at the beauty.
“Talk about a cutie,” Solano County Supervisor John Vasquez said.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, caressed the carbon fiber outside and said, “Doesn’t it make you want to say, ‘Can I buy one, Patti?’ ”
The object of everyone’s affections was the new lightweight, compact amphibious sport plane, the Icon A5. The fact that the up-and-coming startup company chose Vacaville as its permanent place to land and begin full-scale production had an enthusiastic crowd of supporters – including state, county and city officials – on their feet with ovations a few times during the hourlong presentation to formally announce the company’s arrival in Vacaville.
Icon Aircraft has leased a 137,940-square-foot building on Beechcraft Road, adjacent to the Nut Tree Airport. The company, which already has more than 1,000 preorders on the $139,000 plane, is looking to roll out its first A5 from the Vacaville warehouse in early 2015.
Icon CEO Kirk Hawkins said the Icon A5 is designed to create an emotional feeling and “reinvent flying,” changing the face of personal aviation by making it more accessible. The airplane’s classification allows pilots to fly it with a sport pilot license that requires about two weeks of training, he said. That training will be supplied at the Icon location to those who purchase an A5.
The two-seater sport plane with foldable wings can land on both water and solid ground and is designed for speeds of 120 mph and a range of up to 300 miles. It burns both auto and aviation fuel.
“I call it human bladder duration,” Hawkins said, joking, about the fuel mileage distance.
It’s been a long time coming. The city began the flirting and wooing process more than three years ago. During that time, Hawkins, a former Air Force pilot, said the company took its location search all over the country, with sites in Texas, Arizona and California the final contenders.
The move will allow the company, which started in 2006 in the Silicon Valley and is currently located in Southern California, to locate its entire production – manufacturing, sales, training, service and corporate headquarters – at one location.
Hawkins said that despite the reputation of California being unfriendly to businesses, Vacaville “made us feel wanted.”
“This community went above and beyond,” he said. He cited the nearby locations of “world-class destinations,” the terrain, nearby lakes, the year-round flying weather and the area’s talent pool as reasons why the company chose Vacaville.
The positive economic impact to the area will be a boon to the city, the county and Solano Community College, which has also been a cornerstone in the efforts to bring the airplane company to Vacaville. A partnership between Icon and the college looks to possible internships, job opportunities for graduates and the creation of specific educational vocational classes and programs for Icon employees.
The company is estimating the creation of 500 local jobs, Hawkins said, with an all-told economic impact estimated to eventually exceed $350 million, citing revenue-generating activities such as local wages paid, local purchases made by Icon, increases in visitor and employee spending, plus sales and property tax revenue.
“This is truly a great day – there is not an appropriate adjective to describe this,” Vacaville Mayor Steve Hardy said.
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.